I have an ongoing conversation with one of my sister-friends. We’re both mothers to young kids. Wives. Teachers. Stay at home mamas trying to be everything to everyone while leaving a little something for ourselves. It’s an impossible task. Completely impossible. We often text to check in with each other.
I’ve alluded to it but I’ll just come out and say it. I quit. This is my last week of teaching. This is my last week of enlightening (or, rather, attempting to enlighten) my high school kids. This is my last week of obsessing over the perfect lesson plans, worrying about how I can reach that one particular student, fretting over keeping up with things like putting grades in the electronic grade book or the always awkward parent/teacher conferences or even the pleasure of joking around with my kids all day. I’m finished.
I’m grateful that I’m not jaded. I LOVE my job. Like a lot. And I probably love my kids more than a teacher should. But, the thing is that I’m a mommy now. (I have become more comfortable with saying that I am a mommy rather than I’ll be a mommy.) For me, teaching and parenting come from the same place in my heart. There is no way that I’ll be able to teach the way I feel I need to teach and parent the way I feel I need to parent when I’m trying to stretch myself in both directions giving 100 percent in both places. I. can’t. do. it. I know I can’t.
This was not an easy decision. I cried about it a lot. I cried because I felt that I wasted my time attaining my dream: a college degree. I cried because I never wanted this to be my life. I cried because if I could have planned out every single thing that I would do/ accomplish/ experience in my life, quitting was not in my scope of vision. Becoming a wife was not in my scope of vision. Becoming a mother was not in my scope of vision. Becoming a stay at home mother was most definitely not in my scope of vision. I had other plans for my life.
““My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
“And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so my ways are higher than your ways
and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”” – Isaiah 55:8-9
The timing is perfect. October. The month of pumpkin flavored EVERYTHING! The changing of the seasons in nature as well as in my life. Fall. In literature, this season can symbolize the changing from youth to “a more mature part of life that is full of wisdom and knowledge…” But it is also, “the harvest season[.] When the spoils of the year’s labor are gathered and plenty becomes visible for all eyes to see before much of it is put away in preparation for the leaner months.” Leaner months of getting to know BB. Getting to know myself as a parent. Leaner months of watching Wes in his role as daddy. It’s exciting. It’s scary. It’s my life. I cannot believe that this is my life.
One day, when I was hanging out with Dee, we had a little talk about the transition. I explained how I was feeling. (I love how openly I can talk with her. She really does know me very, very well. Isn’t it amazing how God can make your best friends out of siblings?). Anyway, I was talking and she said something to the effect of why I am surprised that my life is taking these drastic turns. She said it’s because this is how other people’s lives go. Not my life. This is the story book. I’m living a dream and I’m not used to the things in my life turning out like they do in those feel-good movies. In my life (and in my little sister’s life) there always seems to be that unexpected plot twist (except it’s not unexpected for us because it always happens…or, at least, it used to happen).
So… off I go to live my almost too-good-to-be-true life with my more than perfect husband and my new baby (due in three weeks). It will be one heck of a ride. Am I scared? Heck yes. Am I certain that this is what I’m supposed to do? With all of my heart and soul. Do I think it will be easy? Not even. But, I’m sure I’ll write about it because that’s what I do. I’m actually really looking forward to this transition. Phase two.
But what I’m not looking forward to is telling my students that I will not be back. I will have to tell them the answer to the question that they have been asking me since they found out that I am pregnant. I will have to tell them, “I love you but I quit.”
anomaly [uh-nom-uh-lee]- a deviation from the common rule, type, arrangement, or form. Synonyms: abnormality, exception, peculiarity.
“Anomaly.” Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 05 June 2014.
A very clichéd way to begin a work of writing is with a definition. In my opinion, doing this means one of these things: 1) you have no idea what you really want to say, 2) your piece of writing has a length requirement that you a struggling to meet or, 3) you think your reader is stupid. As a rule, I NEVER allow my students to begin their essays with definitions. It’s a rule. But I digress…
There is a social media movement going on right beneath our noses. A movement where people tell a snippet of their testimony using the hashtag #anomaly. This hashtag has been seen on such platforms as Instagram (you can find me here and Dee here), Twitter (you can find me here) and even on Facebook. Go ahead, look up the hashtag and be blessed. Well, that is if the sharers did it right.
How can the sharers do “it” wrong? That’s probably what you’re thinking. There’s no way a testimony can be wrong…right? Well, actually, there is. In the Christian world, testimonies are supposed to point the hearer back to God. For example, “This and this and this happened…but God.” The testimony is not supposed to glorify the person giving the testimony; the testimony glorifies the one Who changes everything: God. So, yes, we can do it wrong.
The Lord has revealed our righteousness. Come and let us declare in Zion the work of the Lord our God. Jeremiah 51:10 (NKJV)
Come and hear, all you who feared God, and I will declare what He has done for my soul. Psalm 66:16 (NKJV)
And in that day you will say: “Praise the Lord, call upon HIs name; decree His deeds among the peoples, make mention that His name is exalted. Sing to the Lord, for He has done excellent things; this is known in all the earth…” Isaiah 12: 4, 5 (NKJV)
So, why did I start this post with a definition that seems to have nothing to do with what I’ve written about thus far? Well, I had a little trouble deciding which portion of my testimony to share with the #anomaly movement. Should I talk about being healed from the repercussions of the sickness that nearly cost me my life? Should I talk about my little miracle baby (even though I’m pretty sure you all are tired of hearing about my transformation to #mommymode)? Should I talk about the journey that God is walking me through to become the best possible wife to Wes? What should I talk about?
I looked through the hashtag and was really blown away by so many of the stories. As of right now, on Instagram, there are 12, 931 postings. Some are perfect and others are either 1) very self serving (personal ads for people’s startup businesses, radio shows, even for blogs… don’t worry, I didn’t do that. It would be SO hypocritical!), or 2) they don’t actually talk about something that is an anomaly… (which is kind of the point). I was slightly annoyed and I talked to Wes about people “doing it wrong” and THAT is the reason that I began this blog entry with a definition.
Here are some of my bloopers and out takes before I decided what to share. I wanted to make sure that my #anomaly story didn’t glorify me instead of God…even if it doesn’t blatantly say that God did it (my readers are smart). And, yes, I had trouble with the correct spelling of anomaly. Kind of embarrassing.
First, there was the brainstorm:
Then I had to make a decision as to which one to keep. But, first, I had to figure out how to spell “anomaly.”
I finally figured out how to spell “anomaly”…
but then I decided that I could do a lot better than talking about Valley Fever AND I didn’t want to talk about running because I felt that was self-serving like, “Look at me! I’m a Black girl who runs! Did you know that Black girls don’t run?! I’m so freaking cool!” (I’ll save those posts for Instagram.) … – and isn’t my testimony supposed to be ALL about me? … [that was sarcasm]…
I’m still not sure why I scratched the previous one but I plowed forth!
…and forgot how to spell, again. I need to read more books! And, then I hit the mother load:
But I decided that I didn’t need to say that part about marriage and interventions… So here’s the story I decided to tell:
I think that about sums it up. I’m still attempting to write the post about how this all came about (here’s a good place to start). The miracle baby. The running. The Valley Fever. I really don’t know how God does the miraculous things He does. I just love to hear the stories about His greatness. #ANOMALY
What exactly makes someone become a grown up? Is it turning a certain age? Having kids? Graduation from college or high school? Moving out on your own? Or is it when a person, “start[s] cleaning the house every day and paying [their} bills on time and replying to emails before [their] inbox reaches quadruple digits (Allie Brosh. “This is Why I’ll Never be an Adult.” 29 May 2014)?
I’ve been thinking about this idea for a long time and I don’t know that I’ve figured out the answer (that’s a great reason to write about it, right?) But recently, Wes and I purchased a washer and dryer and that got me to wondering, “Am I finally an adult?”
I remember when I turned 25. I had a mid life crisis that year. I know it’s a little early to have the midlife crisis but it felt really real at the time. I looked at my life and seriously questioned where I was going. Who was I trying to impress? Who was I hanging out with? Were said people adding value to my life and to my character? That’s when I decided to make a change. I went back to college that year. Not to earn my master’s degree but to FINALLY earn my bachelor’s degree.
I used to think that 25 year olds had all of their stuff together. What was that stuff? I have no idea. I guess “stuff” would be they could pay all of their bills, they didn’t live with their parents, they had a vehicle. They most certainly already had their college degrees by then!
I remember posing this question to some of my high schoolers as a journal question this past school year. One of the answers really stood out to me:
“You never know when you’re ready for the real world. It just sorta hits you in the face whenever it wants to.”
At 25, I decided that I no longer wanted to waste my life chasing after things that weren’t important. Yes, I was married by then- and some people would argue that being married made me an adult- but I was a selfish wife. I was more concerned about what I could get from Wes than about what I could give to Wes. Marriage is supposed to go both ways, right? I decided that I would take some little steps to be the best wife to Wes that I could possibly be. Here we are, six years later, and I have made major steps to becoming the wife that I am supposed to be. I think that is a step towards adulthood.
One of the reasons why I don’t really want to be an adult is because it seems that grown ups don’t really have any fun. They’re so worried about the daily things in life that they forget the point of all of that working. All of that time spent away from the one place that they want to be: home. I don’t want to be a grownup because I don’t want to be so caught up in life that I forget about the living.
So, no, I’m not an adult…and come to think of it- I don’t ever want to become one.
I am NOT that girl who always dreamt of parenthood. I am, however, the girl who dreamt that she would be a career woman, independent. You know, that sort of thing. But, a few weeks ago…okay… a month ago…I found out that I am pregnant! Pregnant!
I’m only freaking out a little now. Which is better than I was doing: vacillating between scared-to-freaking-death and happy-as-can-be. Those are my legitimate feelings.
Here’s the thing: the other day, I had a discussion with my class. I asked them what sort of relationship they had with their parents and what ideas they had to make sure that the relationship they have with their own kids will be “better.” I was surprised to find that many of my students didn’t really have a relationship with their parents. Like, they didn’t talk at all.
So, being the inquisitive little grown ups that they are, they asked me about my relationship with my parents. I don’t know why, but I never give my kids enough credit for their questions that literally just get right down to the heart of the matter. I told them that I don’t really talk to my parents. They were surprised. They asked about my parents in law. I told my students that I talk to my in laws fairly regularly. They were still surprised. “That’s f—‘ed up, Miss!” said one student. “That’s probably pretty close to what my parents think, too,” I replied.
But this got me thinking that I HAVE to do better on that front. No better time to re-open the avenues of communication than when there’s a baby on the way. So, I used my kids’ prodding to “grow a pair” and call my parents. (Well… I actually texted them but that’s pretty much the same thing for me.)
I texted my dad and went to visit my mom and I reported back to the kids what I had done. They were happy. But, I think my kids are changing my life by virtue of being who they are.
I got a little off track telling that story but I said all of that about my kids to say this: The kids inquired about my greatest fear. It really was a hard question to answer. But the answer that I came up with is I’m a little scared of becoming a parent.
I have 6.5 months to get used to the idea. But I just thought I’d throw it out there. I am not that girl who dreamt of this day. I HAVE NOT been waiting my whole life for this. I don’t feel equipped for parenting but I do feel equipped to do the best that I can no matter what. I can do that. That’s all I can really expect of myself. I think that’s fair. Besides, Wes is a pretty stellar partner to be doing this whole parenting thing with so I think the two of us (and lots of prayer- feel free to pray for us when we come to mind) can make this happen without our kid being scarred for life.
p.s. This “secret” is also the reason that I didn’t want to blog. I didn’t want to spill the beans but it looks as though I’ve done that anyway. So, I guess that I’m back…
I feel so awesome!!! Sore. But awesome. Today, one of my kids asked me, “Why people are so crazy to run THAT far. Like, what’s the point?” I have the perfect answer. I run because I can. I never in a million years thought that I would enjoy it. Thrive on it. Need it. I run because it makes me happy. Literally. I push myself to do things like running 13.1 miles because it’s so awesome to see what my body can do. I can run 5 miles. I can effortlessly (almost) run 2 miles in 22 minutes. I did that yesterday. Seriously. I. can. run. And I love it.
Yesterday, I met a guy on the shuttle home who was 76 years old! Yes, 76! He said that he didn’t start running until he was 50! He ran the half marathon in two hours and five minutes. Like… what?!?! That’s crazy swift.
The break down:
My goal was to run the whole way… and to finish the race (but that’s kind of a given). I also wanted to start off in the back of the pack. I wanted to run my own race. I needed to run my own race. As my sister-friend, Priscilla, said, this race was God confirming that I had what I needed within me. He’d already placed it there.
Mile 1 (13:10) This isn’t so bad. I think I can do this.
Mile 2 (12:22) …
Mile 3 (12:50) I think I’m hungry. How is that possible?
5k time–>(35:17) Not bad. Not bad at all.
Mile 4 (11:09) I wonder if that was my fastest 5k. I hope so. That would be awesome.
Mile 5 (11:07) I’m glad they gave us GU. They taste like butt but they do the trick. I’m kinda getting tired. I’m thirsty. Holy smokes! I’m doing this! Thank you, Jesus!
Mile 6 (11:53) I have way more miles to go. I may have to walk some. No… I think I can just slow down a little so that I can make my goal of running the whole time.
10k time–> (1:12:28)
Mile 7 (12:38) I passed someone who had been running the whole time and I smiled. “You’re doing a great job!, ” I said, “We’re halfway to the finish!” I’m HALFWAY TO THE FINISH!!!!!!!
Mile 8 (12:44) It was right around here that I started melting down. My legs were getting heavy. Really heavy. I had to concentrate on picking up one foot and then the other like my big brother told me. I read my sister-friend, Liel’s morning text message: “Good morning sunshine! Here’s my prayer for you: Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young (wo)men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:28-31).
It was at this point that I also called my brother for some encouragement. It was so cool to hear him and my sis in law and my nephews cheering for me. I needed all that I could get.
Mile 9 (14:11) ThankYouJesusThankYouJesusThankYouJesus.
Mile 10 (13:35) There was a HUUUUUUUGGGEEEE hill somewhere around here. I thought it was gonna be all downhill and it was not. That’s okay. I came up with a strategy: run down the hill and speed walk up the hill. Now that I see the numbers, I don’t think I was speed walking! Hahaha!
Mile 11 (13:29) Almost finished! I also picked up a mate around this point. There was a guy that I kept passing but he started to walk. I needed him to run! So I encouraged him to keep going, “I’m trying to keep up with you! Come onnnnnnnn!!!!” And he actually came with me.
Mile 12 (15:08) Here is where there was a girl who looked to be younger than me but she’d run out of steam. She would jog for a couple of steps and then stop. I encouraged her to run with my mate and me. She stayed with us, too! At the finish line, it was the three of us.
Mile 13 (12:31) I wanted to run the entire last mile but I didn’t make myself do it. I thought I had enough power to get me through but it felt soooooo long. I walked some. I walked more than I should’ve.
Mile 14 (11:38 min./mile pace) Run it in!!!
Now that it’s all said and done, I think I really want to do the Tucson Half Marathon in 2014. I will have the same goal of running the whole time but I will also add in another goal: to beat my time from this year by at least 10 minutes. I think I can do that. With God’s help.
“Mrs. B., which group did you belong to in high school?”
My inquisitive students all looked at me waiting for the response. A million thoughts swam through my head. Should I tell them? What should I tell them? Can I make it seem better than it actually was?
“Well,” I began, “the group that I belonged to in high school isn’t one of the ones that you guys listed on the board.” I shouldn’t have said that. Now I really won’t be able to just gloss over the question.
“I belonged to the Bible thumper group.” I confessed.
“What?! Really?! No way!”
There’s not a sure fire way for me to know how many students I traumatized during my years of high school. I didn’t really begin “coming into my own” until I was about 25 years old so high school was much more awkward for me than it needed to be. I never had a knack for making friends (apparently that’s one of the qualities of an extrovert) and I cannot stress enough how immature I was in high school about all things spiritual.
The summer before high school, I began to get really, really involved in my church. I loved it. My church family began to take the place of my parents and I was perfectly okay with that. My youth pastors were always talking to us about the importance of boldness and how we needed to be bold to withstand the pressures of high school. It took me a while but I finally started to practice the boldness that my youth pastors were talking about during my junior year.
I somehow managed to meet a group of Christian kids: the Bible thumpers. I don’t recall exactly how it happened but I think that one of the Bible thumper kids may have seen me sitting by myself and come over to talk to me. I started to attend the Bible Study Club meetings that the kids ran and at these meeting they, too, talked about boldness. During the minutes before school, these kids would stand amongst the student body and preach! Yes, preach! I thought they were so cool. I really wanted to preach, too.
I was cultivating my Bible thumper rep by carrying my Bible EVERYWHERE! I even got a nifty purse thingy to hold the Good Book. Everyday, when I got to class, I would put my Bible in the top left corner of my desk because, you know, if I didn’t carry a Bible around with me AT ALL TIMES, then I wasn’t a “real” Christian… or so I thought. Like, I said, I was immature. If you’ve seen that movie, “Easy A,” I remember being a lot like Marianne minus the boyfriend. I didn’t have any boyfriends during my time as a Bible thumper because I also read that book I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris and I wanted to be like him, too. I definitely believe the things that he talked about and I did “kiss dating goodbye” but… still…
The day finally came that I would preach. I proceeded to yell at all students who were within earshot about how they were going to hell. Their friends would send them to hell. Their choices would send them to hell. Hell, hell, hell, hell… While there was some truth to that, something can be said for tact (never my strong suit).
Ay, ay, ay. It’s so sad to think about the number of people that I traumatized with my “preaching.” I forgot to preach about the one, true God. You know, the One who forgives us when we ask. The One who provides all of our needs. The One who is not pushy so He waits for us to receive Him. The One who says that all sins are the same meaning that any sin(s) will send us to hell (sins like judging and lying- even those “white lies”). Not just specific ones (contrary to popular belief).
There is so much that I should’ve said but didn’t. I don’t really know why. But what I do know is I messed up. Big time. Lord, forgive me.
I almost didn’t post! I didn’t want to be a liar so here goes.
Colossians 2: 1-5 The part that stood out to me was verse 4: “I am telling you this so that no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments.” Just last week, an interesting conversation popped up about different religions in my classroom. This particular student started to speak and he said, “we are all our own god and our own devil.” I was confused, stunned. I’d never heard of such an argument. All I could think was: I am NOT prepared for this sort of discussion. I did not want to insert my personal beliefs into the conversation but I also didn’t want to agree with this student’s perspective of people like you and me and him being our own gods.
Finally, he asked me what I felt about what he’d said- there was more to it but I only quoted the piece that will serve me here. “Do you think it’s a cult?” he asked me. Looking and actually waiting for my response. Ummmmmmm… should I tell him from a teacher perspective? Or a Christian perspective?? I’m not really sure how the blending of the two is actually supposed to work. I am a Christian and I am a teacher.— oh, he’s waiting.— “Ya. The thing is, we’re all searching for the way to Heaven. There’s only one Way and I’m pretty sure that I know what it is. But, you’re pretty sure that you know what it is. We won’t know until the end. I’m not taking any chances, though.” Hmmm… did I answer him correctly?
But, see that’s the thing. God’s love is not a mystery. Heaven is not a mystery. It’s so easy that it seems mysterious. This is why people search and search looking for the answer when all along He’s been staring them in the face: with every rainbow, every cloud, every breeze. Every. single. thing. He is in it.
No matter the “well-crafted argument” or how ineloquent my own arguments may be, there is not a need for timidity and most certainly not a need for doubt. The God of the universe is the one, true God. The end.
Tomorrow, Day 6.
My older sister asked me something interesting the other day, “Isn’t being a teacher kinda like signing up to have homework every day?” The answer. Yes, yes it is. I didn’t realize that at first, but it seems that between work-school and school-school I always have homework.
There’s the lesson planning. The online discussion forums. The required responses. The editing of papers. The due date that I mistyped into my Google calendar for said online classes. The 5 a.m. wakeups out of a dead sleep because the assignment that I thought was due Friday is actually due Wednesday. The awful last minute essay about something that I have no clue about. The finding out that that said assignment actually was due on Friday… so I didn’t need to lose any sleep and didn’t need to turn in subpar work.
The attempting to exercise four days a week. The guilt when I only manage three. The scale in the morning. The tracking of food so I don’t gain back all of the weight that I’ve gotten rid of over the past year.
The way that my work life has invaded my personal life so much that all I talk about now is which kid did what and why it’s so hilarious… or frustrating. The asking myself ‘how can I improve this? How can I tweak that so that the kids will understand.’
The worrying about what’s for dinner. What’s for lunch. Is the house clean? The laundry washed? Are the floors swept and mopped? When was the last time that I did that?
Am I being the wife the he deserves? Am I ignoring him? Am I making sure that he doesn’t feel like Erin Gruwell’s husband: neglected and alone?
Have I read my Bible? Have I talked with Him about anything? Thanked Him for everything? Worshipped Him?
There’s so much on my mind and on my plate. So, yes, Nikki, yes it is a lot like signing up for homework.
My students are used to people (family members, past teachers, employers) having low expectations of them. Their families are constantly waiting for them to mess up. My students, themselves, are sometimes just waiting for the moment they have that life-altering judgment lapse that spins their life out of control. I don’t want to be the teacher that sets the bar so high that no one can reach it. But, I refuse to be the teacher that sets the bar so low that my kids don’t have to put in some work to earn a decent grade. I am struggling with finding a balance between the two.
This struggle made my day yesterday a little bit depressing. I assigned an essay and gave the kids a week to write it. I gave them an outline and walked them through how to fill it out. Showed them how to properly quote text. Brainstormed ideas as a class. Gave them time in class to write (which most of them squandered away). Friday came and I received 6 out of 23 rough draft essays. Wow. I was shocked with how few of the students turned their rough drafts in to me. All they wanted to know was how them not turning their rough draft in was going to effect their grade.
I read through the few essays that I received and many of the students never got around to even answering the questions that were asked. But, last night I came to this realization, I did not adequately teach them how to write an essay. I have had my first failure as a teacher.
I have now gone into re-evaluation phase. What can I do? What did I do well? What did I fail to do? What can I do on Monday to rectify this mess? Yes, there is hope. Yes, this can be fixed. No, I don’t need to be sad. Yes, I need to be proactive. Yes, I will get a chance for redemption.
Sigh. I am already feeling better. I need to in to beast mode. There’s no way around it. I will not give up. I will not lower my standards. They will rise to the occasion. I know that they have it in them. I know that they are capable.
I need to find a solution. I will not give up on my kids this easily (although I know that some of them are hoping that I will).